Molly

Classical Recording Suggestions?

11 posts in this topic

As a dedicated classical music fan and amateur pianist, each year I look forward to attending our local symphony concerts. This season I intend to prepare carefully for each concert by investing in high quality recordings of each piece. I would love recommendations from members of this Forum! I'd appreciate CD recording recommendations for any of the following pieces. For example; specific performers, orchestras, conductors, etc.

These are the pieces I'm preparing for:

Ades "...but all shall be well..."

Beethoven String Quartet No. 11 for String Orchestra "Serioso"

Beethoven Symphony No. 1

Beethoven Symphony No. 4

Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2

Copland Symphony No. 3

Liszt Les Preludes

McTee Timepiece

Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat, K. 365

Mozart Piano Concerto #3, K. 216

Mozart Piano Concerto #23, K. 488

Mozart Violin Concerto #25 K. 503

Orff Carmina Burana

Rachmaninoff "The Bells"

Sibelius Valse Triste

Sibelius Lemminkainen’s Return

Salonen L.A. Variations

Sibelius Violin Concerto

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 (my favorite performer for this piece so far is Martha Argerich)

On the subject of buying music, I've recently found an excellent service offering a wide variety of well-priced CDs. "Yourmusic.com" is the new and improved BMG music club, with a vastly improved program! In the past, a random ~$15 CD selection was sent to members each month unless they declined beforehand. With the far more flexible new program, you set up your own list of the CDs you want and each month it sends you the next CD in your queue for a flat $5.99 (free shipping!). Additionally, at any point you can purchase as many CDs as you wish for $5.99 each. I already have my queue set up for almost 2 years worth of purchases! This is my fourth month of the program and so far I am exceedingly happy with the prices and service. It's been an excellent way to prioritize my "wish list" of music - and at $5.99 for a new CD it is hard to go wrong - some are even dual disc sets of the CD plus DVD performance.

Thanks in advance for any recording recommendations! I hope in return my suggestion for the yourmusic.com service is of some value to those reading this. :)

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As a dedicated classical music fan and amateur pianist...

A pianist! Wonderful! What are your favorite things to play? What are you currently working on?

I would love recommendations from members of this Forum!

I'm going to offer suggestions for just a few of those (my favorite ones!).

Liszt's "Les Preludes"! Lusciousness! Liszt is (in my estimation) historically one of the most underappreciated orchestrators ever. This is one of his tone poems. I've heard many excellent recordings of it. So, your best options here might be to find it on a disc with some other things that might interest you. For example this one Liszt CD on TowerRecords has Karajan conducting the Berlin Phil. Orch; not too shabby! :) In addition it has Martha Argerich doing Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major & his Sonata in B Minor. Liszt only wrote 2 concertos for piano & they are both stunningly beautiful. If I remember correctly he only wrote this one sonata. In any event, it's a good way to get a bunch of good Liszt with good performers with one purchase.

Although Argerich is quite enjoyable to me also, some people regard the "gold standard" recording of Tchaikovsky's B Flat Minor Concerto to be by Van Cliburn. This particular recording also has him playing Rach's 2nd:

Tchaikovski by Van Cliburn on TowerRecords

Lastly, the Beethoven.

There are many excellent recordings of the F Minor String Quartet No. 11. His music is thankfully as reverred as it should be by most musicians & therefore most performances are wonderful. If I had to pick just one though... Back in the 40's & 50's the Budapest String Quartet recorded all of Beethoven's quartets. The recording quality leaves a little to be desired because of the older technology but the performances were breathtaking. CD on TowerRecords it's a bit pricey, but I thought I would at least mention it.

Good recordings/performances of Beethoven's symphonies are also easy to find. Karajan is one of my personal favorite conductors of The Master's works; also Solti. Karajan likes to rev the motor up and GO for maximum drama! Solti makes things very sound important. Just some personal observations there though. :) I usually suggest to anyone interested to just go out and buy a boxed set containing ALL 9 Beethoven symphonies. Then you have them all; you're done!

For example, I searched Amazon Amazon for boxed sets of all Beethoven symphonies and found a boxed set for under $30 conducted by Bernstein. Not bad!

I hope you enjoy your musical experiences at this season's concerts!

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Unfortunately I don't listen to the most of the pieces or composers you listed, so I can offer only a few specific recommendations (listed below).

In general, I highly recommend the Penguin Guide to compact disks (not sure what the latest edition is; don't know if they have an online presence). Their ratings of performance quality and recording engineering quality are usually pretty helpful.

Also, for reviews and recommendations, try the online archives of the various "high end" audio magazines such as Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, UHF Magazine.

Liszt, Complete tone poems, Vol. 1, Haitink/LSO, Philips 438751-2

This is a pretty good recording and performance.

Chopin: Piano Concertos, Szekely/Nemeth/Budapest SO, Naxos 8.550123

This is a usual good value from Naxos featuring Eastern European performers.

Argerich has a well-known recording of the Chopin Concertos on DG, IIRC.

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For Rachmaninoff's "The Bells" I highly recommend Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra. The name of the choir he used escapes me right now, but the voices are excellent.

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Thank you for your recommendations!

A pianist!  Wonderful!  What are your favorite things to play?  What are you currently working on?

I'm currently saving up to acquire a high quality digital piano (full size, all 88 keys) with headphones so I can practice to my heart's content without disturbing the neighbors! The quest is taking a while because I'm so picky - I love the weight and feel of "real" pianos so much that it's hard to choose a digital version. But at this stage of apartment/duplex living I just can't subject the neighbors to so much noise. I'm leaning towards a Yamaha P120. Perhaps I'll start another topic on the subject of digital piano recommendations...

My goal is choosing and mastering one piece from each of my favorite composers (Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Paganini, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, etc.) and create my own CD. Not a commercial or professional CD or anything like that, just a private recording for my own enjoyment. Something tangible to create and show for my efforts. I'm planning on dedicating about ten years to the project, starting three years from now.

So until then, I have three years to save up for the piano, select the pieces and track down the scores - I'm having a great time doing the research! Then I'll be ready to focus on the selected pieces and perfect them to my satisfaction. I might get as fancy as save up to hire an orchestra for when I'm finally ready to record, but technology might render that unnecessary. If I'm understanding it correctly, digital pianos these days allow uploading the background music without the solo instrument so I can perform the solo part myself. That would be perfect!

I have a lot of work ahead of me and I can't wait! :)

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Thank you for your recommendations!

Welcome. :)

I'm currently saving up to acquire a high quality digital piano...

My goal is choosing and mastering one piece from each of my favorite composers...

I have a lot of work ahead of me and I can't wait! :)

That's a wonderful, fun long-range goal there. Good stuff. Wish you best in accomplishing it all.

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I usually suggest to anyone interested to just go out and buy a boxed set containing ALL 9 Beethoven symphonies.  Then you have them all; you're done! 

Say what now? I have one boxed set (Karajan) and up to four further recordings of most symphonies... and I'm still not "done!" :)

Personally I've been meaning to buy the whole Eliot-Gardiner set, as I have his performance of the 3rd and the 5th and love them... I love original instrument performances, but as an early music performer myself I'm a bit biased in that regard.

The ultimate performances, though, I'd have to say are those under the baton of Wilhelm Furtwängler--there are various live recordings from the 40s & 50s floating around that I snatch up whenever I can. His unbelievable 9th from the 1953 Salzburger Festspiele (w/ Elisabeth Schwarzkopf!) has just been re-issued on the EMI Great Recordings of the Century line for a very reasonable amount. I'd recommend this recording without reserve to anyone; odd to say, but I never really got in to the ninth much (used to find it *boring!*) before I heard this, and it was like a revelation, the heavens being torn open and all that...

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For Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, I really enjoy the Bamberg Philharmonic Orchestra's rendition. It has a nice, bouncy sense to it that is very up-lifting :).

As to Carmina Burana, I've found quite a different rendition than almost every I've heard...and I've grown to love it. I have the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle version. Very much a treat!

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I'd appreciate CD recording recommendations for any of the following pieces.

  • Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2: I suggest Josef Hofmann's recordings in the album The Chopin Concertos. I have not heard these recordings, but the two other Hofmann albums I own are wonderful.
  • Mozart Piano Concerto #23, K. 488: I recommend Valdimir Horowitz, my favorite pianist. His recording is available in its original pairing with the Sonata K. 333 in the album Horowitz Plays Mozart. Also, the compilation The Magic of Horowitz includes this concerto recording along with a DVD documentary of its making.
  • Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1: Horowitz again. The album Horowitz Plays Tchaikovsky & Beethoven includes a great live performance.

I'm leaning towards a Yamaha P120. Perhaps I'll start another topic on the subject of digital piano recommendations...

I have been very pleased with my Roland HP101. After some testing, I found it superior to a somewhat less expensive Yamaha (not the P120; I don't recall the model).

If I'm understanding it correctly, digital pianos these days allow uploading the background music without the solo instrument so I can perform the solo part myself.

I suspect you are talking about mixing input capability, which I believe the HP101 has. If you aren't already aware of them, I would like to mention the Music Minus One products. I own one of these -- Mozart K. 488, as it happens. So far, I have found the process of learning the concerto and practicing with the recording quite difficult. I imagine that a variable-speed CD player would make things easier and more fun in the early stages.

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Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2: I suggest Josef Hofmann's recordings in the album The Chopin Concertos. I have not heard these recordings, but the two other Hofmann albums I own are wonderful.

The Hofmann disc is superb, but these are 1930s broadcasts so there are sonic limitations. For a modern coupling of the Chopin concertos I like Argerich/Dutoit (EMI) or Perahia/Mehta (Sony).

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Beethoven Symphony No. 1

Beethoven Symphony No. 4

A boxed set of the nine Beethoven symphonies is a good way to go; you can always supplement it later on with outstanding individual performances. Karajan/Berlin 1963 (Deutsche Grammophon) is the classic recommendation. I'm fond of another Berlin Phil. cycle from a few years earlier, conducted by André Cluytens for EMI. It's currently listed at $22.49 at Amazon, an outstanding bargain, in my view.

Copland Symphony No. 3

Bernstein (Deutsche Grammophon) is excellent.

Liszt Les Preludes

If you can tolerate antique recording, Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra give you all the Romantic blood-and-thunder this work requires.

Sibelius Lemminkainen’s Return

There was an Ormandy/Philadelphia recording of the Four Legends from the Kalevala (which includes Lemminkainen's Return and the ever-popular Swan of Tuonela) issued by EMI. It's no longer available, but worth snapping up if you should find a copy.

Sibelius Violin Concerto

Heifetz/Hendl on RCA Living Stereo. Magnificent.

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 (my favorite performer for this piece so far is Martha Argerich)

Argerich is my favorite too. In fact, I think I'll play that CD right now!

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